Opening a Book Shop Blog

The final countdown (duh duh derrrr duh)

It’s late on Sunday evening and I have only just had a chance to sit down and blog about the incredible weekend we have had. My back is aching, my brain is buzzing and I’m tired to my very bones. But I’m happy. WE HAVE A BOOKSHOP!

As you can imagine it’s been a bit of a blur but here is a potted diary of what has been going on in the Bookbugs and Dragon Tales World.

Thursday – 2 days until the Grand Opening

The shop was full of cardboard, bags and assorted things that we had bought and could no longer remember what for. The coffee machine was finally installed and the amazing Poppy and Sally were trained and cracking on with all the things that needed to be done.

Meanwhile, I was at the Walk-in Centre with an ankle three times its normal size, pain like a million shards of glass stabbing me and no idea what I had done. Just as an aside, my mum was a nurse before she retired and as such, I am very much a ‘walk it off’ kind of girl. I used to get a badge from my school every year for 100% attendance, so the very fact that I was seeking medical assistance at all shows how much pain I was in. So, anyway it turns out I had inexplicably developed gout! I suspect it was caused by all the port I drank at the Hunting Lodge…Obviously, despite the pain, this caused great hilarity in the shop with various assembled ‘friends’ complaining that they had developed the plague and other oldy timey ailments.

We finally left the shop at 2.30am with Dan insisting that he wanted to do a ‘soft opening’ for an hour the next day and me insisting it wasn’t possible.

Friday – 1 day until The Grand Opening

We arrived bright (as bright as 4 hours sleep allows) and early at our lovely shop that still looked like it sold cardboard rather than books and started to put the finishing touches in place. The bank card machine person had seen us and verified our existence and we were assured that we would be up and running in time for the big day. Myself and my big, sore foot were thrilled.

The day passed and while we never stopped working, nothing seemed to be getting done. At 4.30 I think Dan finally accepted that there would be no soft opening for us. We had invited our friends and family to a ‘private view’ at 6.30 pm and we had filled our office with prosecco and crisps! Everything was still in uproar at 5.30 when, in a way that has happened throughout this whole process, a huge group of random friends turned up and asked if they could help and help they did. In what can only be described as the best version of 60 Minute Makeover I have ever seen, by 6.30 we were a shop ready to take visitors. It was incredible.

We passed the evening chatting and thanking people and feeling as proud as punch as they admired our beautiful shop and beautiful books. We did a speech and gave out gifts, but even so, this didn’t even go a tiny bit towards showing how grateful we are to have so many wonderful people around us.

Too much has happened since then to fit in this post so we will do a seperate post to cover the weekend we have had…Oooh, cliffhanger…

Everybody needs a Greg

This will be a short post, it’s 12.25am and it’s been a long day. What’s been happening?

We have been on our holidays for a week. The weather was miserable but we still managed to climb Scafell Pike and have a generally splendid time with 15 of our family and 3 dogs. Who needs weather when you enjoy each others company as much as we do?

Whilst we were away our absolute rock in this project, Greg, the amazing artist producing our characters around the shop, has also been letting in our other workers (all friends), taking deliveries, watching over and generally inspiring enthusiasm in everyone that passes. What we would have done without him I do not know, but in future I’m going to recommend everyone has a Greg if they open a bookshop!

Joined above by Cathy, something has happened during this project… the people we really needed have just been there when we needed them. Cathy has been a friend of Leannes for years, one of the loveliest positive giving people… and also, turns out, an ex professional window dresser! Who knew?  Our window, with both their help, is now drawing more wows and Ooohs than we could ever have dreamed of. Do you know what made me happier than anything today though? The previous shops signage was painted over… the shop now really feels like ours!

I need to stop now, just know we have also been working hard! We booked in nearly 2500 beautiful books today and yesterday and barring a bit of alphebetising and prettying they are on our shelves… I had a moment on my own late in the shop which brought me close to tears… we have a bookshop! 


The last few days have been exhausting and the shop is a hive of activity. We have had well-wishers and workers and everything is in chaos. But it’s starting to look like a shop – with a counter, art, tiling and places to display our wares. We are now into ordering of things and I’m starting to feel a little bit like I’m drowning. It’s all very overwhelming for me but Dan is like an oasis of calm. I’ve had scary thoughts, like ‘will it be worth it?’ and ‘what if we fail?’

But all of those thoughts were quelled today. A gentleman walked into the carnage of the shop and asked if he could look at a book we had in the window – Kind. As he looked at the book he explained that he had just lost his wife and she had insisted that, instead of sympathy cards, everyone must write an act of kindness that they had received and one that they had done. When he saw it in the window, he felt that it was fate. We talked for a long time and he told me all about his wife. We talked about loss and how children’s books are an amazing way to process grief in a simple and straight forward way. We cried and hugged and ordered the book.

I haven’t stopped thinking about this man, navigating his way through a life that is so different to what it was and how just when he needed it most, a book gave him a sign. And this is the reason for it all – for all of the stress and worry and hard work and dust. The reason is because books matter and people matter and kindness always matters.

2 weeks in, 3 weeks to go

…and what a 2 weeks! It’s hard to put into words everything we have achieved in the time and all thanks to our glorious network of friends and family. Without them we would be nowhere and none of which we expected.

  • Day 1/2 – all wallpaper stripped and walls prepped
  • Day 3/4/5/6/7 – all 3 ground floor walls painted
  • Day 8/9/10 – 38 shelves built, 5 armchairs made
  • Day 11/12 Downstairs painted, drama/workshop studio floor laid
  • Day 14 Opening stock list nearly completed

To put this into some perspective the shop now looks like this (taken before the shelves):

In this time I have also had the honour of attending the opening of an amazing new Bookshop, Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh and training them. Whilst this was an absolute joy to do it also reminded me of how much we still have to do but if we can achieve even a fraction of the excitement created in their community for a new indie bookshop I will be insanely happy! The shop was a piece of bookshop art and will be a huge success

Portobello Bookshop

Portobello Bookshop - Edinburgh

The great thing about having a partner that believes in our ability to do this as much as I do is that I felt very little guilt in swanning off to another country for 3 days while she got on with what needed to be done. I came home with lots of fresh ideas, books and vigour for the shop. It may be harder next week when I’m only 3 miles away in the office. I’m pretty sure I’m already the office bore with only 1 subject on my mind.

My favourite thing about being in our shop has to be the excitement heard outside the shop while we work away inside. Today I worked with the door open, perhaps to cool down but really to invite conversation. I had a fabulous 15 minute chat with a little dude today who told me the entire plot to a Beast Quest book that was being read to him. Like a giddy child myself I thanked him wholeheartedly for the recommendation and added 5 Beast Quest books to my order. They may never sell but armed with the story of why I bought them I’m sure they will! It’s this stuff that can be found at the soul of every childrens bookseller. Infectious enthusiasm for a story.

We’re in a little bit of a limbo situation now. We’ve done most of what we can without proper skilled labour. We have a family member tiling our toilet next week, a family friend fitting our counter and coffee bar, a close friend designing signage and another close friend plumbing and hopefully the finest coffee roasters Norwich has to offer fitting the machine. Then the books can be delivered and then we might finally look like a bookshop. All the rest is admin, training and polishing off.

Of course there is also the small matter of recruitment for a couple of booksellers in the shop. We’ve been inundated with suitable candidates but if you want to add your hat to the ring please use the contact section on the website or follow the instructions here.

WE ARE RECRUITING!We are looking for some part-time staff to work in the shop, so if you are interested or know of…

Gepostet von Bookbugs and Dragon Tales am Donnerstag, 25. Juli 2019



And then there were keys

Friday 12th July 2019. With the keys finally in our hands the real clock starts.

You can do all the planning, talking, contact building, website building, social media promotion, arranging of contractors, supplier account opening, finance arranging, book choosing but when those keys finally get into your hands all that seems to pale into comparison to the daunting prospect that you now effectively own (ok, lease but it feels perminent) a huge city centre property that you’re entirely responsible for turning into all the things you’ve been promising for months.

We’ve been inside 41 Timberhill a grand total of 3 times before this day and now it will be our second home. It’s so exciting, it’s so scary, it’s so daunting. Its Thrilling. It’s not hard to find joy in every moment. The neighbours popping in to offer support (and trade prices!) The enquisative eyes peering in through the windows of a building that’s stood emptying for 18 months. The last building on the street to be filled. The fact we can take a 2 minute walk to buy the most mundane supplies. The nooks and crannies of the building (there are so many!) The working top of the range video security system that the last proprietors left. The friends and family that turned up unasked to pick up scrapers and work for hours.

We have support in Norwich, we know that. But facebook likes dont always translate to paint brushes in hands. We have taken on something mammoth in 41 Timberhill. Our 3 ground floor rooms are covered in a variety of wallpapers (it was a furniture shop). Its ALL gone! All 5 of our children, parents, friends, friends children made what could have taken days take a few hours with laughter dancing singing and fun along the way. I’m fully aware this is day 1 exhilaration but I don’t care.

We have 36 days. 33 as I write this. Real life carries on. My day job continues, I’ll be in scotland next week helping another fantastic new indie bookshop open, we have a family holiday, I have the last 2 performances of Anglia Square – A love story, we have the school run, the shopping, all the humdrum. We can’t stop now. Luckily this is my wonderful wifes strong point. When she has a project she out performs every time. Anyone that came to our DIY wedding will know that. It’s not my strong point. Don’t get me wrong, when I work I work hard and throw everything into it but if I can lay in bed all day watching homes under the hammer I will!

Luckily now theres somewhere I’d rather be. Speaking of which, I’m heading there now. A few hours scraping, the final Common Lot show, the after show party and into a week of painting, ordering and beginning this new life we’ll be living.

A final note. This show I’m doing. It’s life affirming in every way. Thousands have seen the 7 shows so far. Last show today. Its everything I love about Norwich and it represents the spirit of what we want to portray at the bookshop. No questions asked love for your community and the people around you no matter where they have come from. Opening up theatre, the arts and literature to anybody who cares enough to show up. You’ll always be welcomed with a smile and a open mind in our shop. 



Red Letter Day – by Dan

Today we signed the lease to the property we’ve been chasing for 12 weeks. We are reliably informed there isn’t really anything that can stop us getting the keys on Friday. To say we are excited would be a ridiculous understatement.

We only really “came out” about the bookshop in the last 2 weeks and the response has been overwhelming. If even a small % of the positive feedback for what we are doing translates to people through the door then we will be ok. We have had so much support from friends with school connections, to activity and workshop providers, to authors, to parents, to my theatre company and to the children in our family who have been instrumental. One silent pillar in the project has been our good friend and graphic designer Greg Lindsay-Smith who was onboard and enthusiastic from the get go. He’s created all our artwork and the most wonderful signage. I really can’t thank him enough for providing creative spark and beautiful art but more for the full commitment to the cause and his belief in us.


The other major contributor to our Bookshop so far has been other booksellers. What people outside of the Book industry don’t realise is how collaborative we are and how we all wish each other success to the extent that we will go above and beyond to help each other. Andy Rossiter (Rossiter Books, Ross-On-Wye, Monmouth, Leominster and BA Vice President) in particular has pretty much mentored us throughout the whole process, providing us with invaluable business startup advice and allowing us to use his wonderful stock list as a starting point for our own shop. I feel very lucky to consider Andy and nearly all the best bookshop owners in the UK and Ireland, friends.

Are we scared? Of course we are! There are so many reasons why opening a bookshop on a high street in a city with a selection of wonderful bookshops and news stories of big retail chains struggling would seem like a crazy idea but what we have planned is quite unique and what Leanne and I bring to the party is also unique as a partnership. I think it is this that gives us the confidence to push on. I have spent 12 years helping other bookshops open and Leanne has spent 17 years inspiring children and young adults to be the best they can be from often difficult starts in life. We have both spent our lives performing. Combining this with our love of the many beautiful children’s books that are out there and the flood of evidence that, given the right blend of carefully curated books and activities and CAKE, we can and will succeed in becoming a reason to come to the high street.


Bookbugs and The Common Lot – By Dan

Today we will be marching proudly alongside The Common Lot

handing out stickers and bookmarks for the bookshop. I have been part of all but one Common Lot production and in “Anglia Square – A Love Story” I play no less than 3 roles. The mean spirited (posh side of the river) Bishop

a distraught damaged clown and a singing corporate pig.

So far over 600 people have seen our 1st 2 shows of this production and you have an opportunity to see it tomorrow and Thursday to Sunday next week.


This show reflects a love and passion for Norwich that we as a Bookshop intend to display in everything we do.

Ramblings in the waiting room – By Leanne

Another week has passed and we still haven’t signed the lease. We are assured that everyone is chasing everyone and I’m hoping all of that chasing will end with a set of keys in our (now constantly) sweaty palms. Land has been searched, asbestos has been considered, plans have been submitted and the planning portal semi-successfully set up. On a side note, renting a Grade II listed building is an adventure all of it’s own. Charming and very bookshopish facades and features, and a truck load of confusing misinformation! Can I have a sign/ramp/A Board/Some help, please?! 
The scary waiting has become so much more scary, as I find myself now 2 weeks away from being gainfully unemployed. Employed by a company that has kept me safe and warm for the last 17 years, doing a job that I’m pretty good at (or at least have perfected the art of faking being good at) and friends that have seen me through the highest highs and the lowest lows. 
I’ve worked since I was 14, stopping only briefly to pop a set of twins out, and if I’m honest, those 6 months that I had ‘off’ were not the relaxing Calvin Klein ad I hoped it would be. I haven’t even really thought about what a wrench I will find it leaving the place – Dan and I even got married there. All of this is made so much more difficult because at the time of writing, we are only an online bookshop.
So, the waiting continues. Watch this space. And in the meantime, why not order some books or follow us on Instagram.

Bookshop Blog – Opening a Bookshop – By Leanne

Preparing to open a bookshop is exciting. And then it’s not. And then it is again. And then it’s not.

The process so far has been an absolute roller-coaster, but it has taught us patience. There are so many things you aren’t prepared for and so you constantly must put your ideas on hold and deal with every day life. There is a lot of waiting.

We put an offer in on the proposed location 10 weeks ago and it was pretty much accepted straight away. How thrilling! If anything, we were worried that we would have to pay rent on a property we couldn’t use as the earliest we would be able to open would be July. We needn’t have worried. Things move very slowly regarding this.

However, we feel like the end may be in sight and we can’t wait to launch everything we have into this new adventure.

So, while we don’t have a property yet, we do have merch and that fills us with unimaginable joy.